For many of us, work will never be the same. The COVID-19 pandemic created turbulence in every aspect of our work life — from the daily commute to our physical environment to the way we communicate with colleagues and clients. Millions of people around the globe have become participants in the biggest remote work and social distancing experiment in history.

At the Human Edge we believe that turbulence and cloudy skies do not need to ground a flight, just as working remotely and adapting to a new world, do not need to keep our companies stuck with the engines idling on the run-way.

The pandemic has certainly changed the emphasis.

Now more than ever, leaders are analysing, debating, and trying to predict what the new year will bring. We have never before experienced such uncertainty and unpredictability affecting all areas of business. One thing that is certain is that the leadership agenda over 2021 and beyond will focus more on PEOPLE than ever before.

In periods of uncertainty such as the COVID-19 pandemic, a strong corporate culture is even more important, as during these times organisations need to leverage every competitive advantage they have.

From The Human Edge’s involvement in culture journeys within many corporates in South Africa over the last 25 years, we believe that the following 5 behaviours will be vital to create a culture of care, connection and focus to deliver desired results:

#Speak up – Speak out – Be Heard

Candid engagement where individuals respectfully obtain and listen to the perspectives of others, whether they agree with them or not, and openly and honestly speak up and share their views.

#Team up

Active collaboration where diverse team members demonstrate ownership, stay focused on goals and ask for, offer and act on feedback.

#Step in – Step up – Be accountable

Total accountability and getting results where people hold themselves and everyone else accountable regardless of level or position. Individuals clarify roles and responsibilities, acknowledge problems; take responsibility for solving it and determine what needs to be done – they do what they say they’ll do.

#Thank you – Well done

Personalised, sincere, frequent, transparent and in the moment appreciation and recognition, praise and gratitude for great behaviour and work.

#Stop – Think – Challenge

Continuous innovation through the generation, introduction and implementation not only of big ideas that significantly change existing practices but also of small, incremental improvements in coping with daily challenges at work.

Our biggest lessons however relate to leadership and compassion at the top. Employees are yearning for leaders to consistently communicate and cascade the strategy and ensure clarity and focus for all. Listening, caring, showing empathy, engaging, connecting and exhibiting emotional intelligence will need to be at the forefront of leadership behaviour.

Leaders are required to be far more:

  • visible and accessible
  • supportive and caring in their engagement
  • conscious to frequently acknowledge and recognise the right behaviours and performance/delivery/results in the moment
  • focused on consistent relationship-building – listening more, reaching out to teams and individuals at all levels across the organisation and proactively starting honest conversations across the company
  • deliberate about what behaviours will be expected and rewarded and what will not be tolerated, such as disrespect, favouritism, bullying, victimisation, silo-operations, slow decision-making and procrastination.

In our virtual work world, nurturing culture is challenging. Certain leaders succeed where others fail because they “overdetermine” success. They:

  • Identify the unique elements of their culture that create a sense of focus, community and connectedness and then develop ways to re-create them online.
  • Combine multiple sources of influences into their culture journey and strategy plan. Strategies include a focus on addressing motivation and ability at a personal, team and structural/organisational level.

These leaders design specific actions focused on the following:

  • creating mind-shifts
  • over-investing in skill building
  • ensuring they have a group of informal leaders supporting the culture journey
  • enlisting the support of all formal and informal leaders to take on support, coaching and mentoring roles
  • aligning rewards and ensuring accountability at all levels
  • ensuring the right people are in the right positions having access to the right information and resources to make the right decisions.

The path forward into the new year for any organisation should be prioritised around nurturing a vibrant and strong internal culture to fuel the health, well-being, and productivity of your team. This investment will pay even more dividends in 2021 and years beyond.

With Kind Regards

Helene Vermaak   |  Director | The Human Edge